I am very glad that I finally got around to reading this graphic novel. I wasn’t even planning on buying it (I was going to rent it from the library) but when I picked it up at Powell’s I just had to have it. Even if just for the art alone. When I opened the book to flip through the pages, I was blown away at how awesome the artwork was. I am a sucker for some beautiful art, so there was no way I was leaving the store without this book. I mean, look at it! It’s hauntingly beautiful!
The artwork was actually a major reason this book even worked. While the story itself is creepy, the art just helped accentuate the insanity within Arkham Asylum and its inhabitants. It also does a great job of depicting the troubled mind that Batman works so hard to hide.
While Batman is often portrayed as someone with at least of modicum control over his emotions this novel reveals just how troubled Batman really is and how the Joker has known the whole time, even if Batman denies it. This is a story about another plot created by the Joker to get Batman, but rather than trying to kill him/get him killed, he wants Batman to reveal the insanity the lies within him, always threatening to come to the surface.
Running alongside Batman’s struggle to keep his sanity is the parallel story of Amadeus Arkham, the founder of Arkham Asylum, and his descent into madness after years of surrounding himself with those who have lost all contact with reality. In fact, Amadeus shows some similarities to Batman in that for years he had attempted to control the madness that was inside him while it slowly consumed him. In this graphic novel, we get to see how Batman shares this with Amadeus as he struggles to keep his shaky grasp on sanity in a place filled with insane people and at times, almost loses.
The only issue I had with this novel was that I felt the ending was little rushed. I thought there was more that could be done with it. This is not saying the ending was bad. I still enjoyed what they did with it. I just think I could have been a little better.
In the end, this was a great Batman graphic novel with amazing art and a thought provoking and intense story. It’s not your average action packed Batman novel but is instead a psychological thriller that will send chills down your spine. I highly recommend it for those more interested in looking into the depths of Batman and his inner turmoils, which let’s face it, is why we love Batman.